Sarah Essam: fitness motivation lies in goals

Sarah Essam
Essam has been an Egypt international since she was 16

Egypt international Sarah Essam has said her ambition to achieve more in British football is motivating her to maintain her fitness, after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out her club season with English side Stoke City Ladies.

Essam has flown back to Egypt where she is currently quarantined in a hotel for 14 days before she can go home to her family.

She told BBC World Service that fitness is a big issue, but that she is determined to keep her long-term goals at the forefront of her mind in a bid to stay motivated.

"I know it's bad circumstances, but for me - and for any footballer to be honest - they have ambitions," she said.

"So it doesn't matter if there's a virus or something. If someone has ambition, they will utilise this chance to work on themselves to make themselves better.

"I know that it's hard because you have keep your mentality tough and you have to be your own source of motivation, so this is what I'm trying to to do.

"Every time I feel like I'm lazy or I don't want to work out, I just think about the fact that I have a lot of ambitions. Like my dream is to reach a lot of things in football in the UK, so this is my motivation."

As Stoke play in the English FA's Women's National League - which is below the Women's Super League and Women's Championship - all this season's results will be expunged and there will be no promotion or relegation.

"It's very tough and frustrating because nothing counts, like the points, the goals - everything. But I think the pandemic and the virus is something that happens every century or so - so we have to appreciate that for the FA, the priority is our health."

Essam, 21, was picked for Egypt's national team at just 16 and became the first Egyptian woman to play in England's Premier League.

Once it was clear that her club season was over, she decided to return to Egypt to be with her family where she has to be quarantined in a hotel until it is safe to go home.

"We're not allowed to go outside, we're not allowed to meet anyone for 14 days," she said of the quarantine situation.

"And they provide us with food and the doctors check on us twice a day."

Life in quarantine

She added that although she is managing to keep fit, there is no substitute for playing football.

"It's very important to have the touch of the ball, of course. No matter how many times you go to the gym, or how many times you work out, you have to have this touch - you have to shoot at the goal.

"I have a ball - at my home - and I try to do the little touches; the toe-touches, to flick the ball with my feet, to dribble the ball like two or three steps - these simple things I think will keep me going because it's better than nothing."

With most football events now cancelled or postponed indefinitely, the pressure will be on players to find their rhythm once their respective competitions resume.

Essam said those footballers who kept their long-term goals in mind will be the ones who benefit most.

"It's going to be down to whoever worked hard during this time.

"So whoever worked hard, and whoever is working on themselves at this time and utilising this chance to get better and to think about their dreams and think about their ambitions, they will be better when we come back."